‘Norris to win a race but McLaren edged out by rivals’

Total-Motorsport.com take a closer look at what to expect from McLaren ahead of the 2024 Formula 1 season

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McLaren stormed up the order in 2023 and were regularly challenging Red Bull in the second half of the season as Lando Norris took four consecutive podiums.

Norris, who signed a new long-term deal in January to stay at McLaren beyond 2025, is still yet to win his first Formula 1 race and forms a strong line-up at the team with Oscar Piastri in his second season.

Andrea Stella heads up his second campaign in charge and McLaren have two key technical signings for 2024, Rob Marshall from Red Bull and David Sanchez from Ferrari, which will only boost the team.

Total-Motorsport.com journalists Adam Dickinson, Jasmine Hughes, Joe Krishnan, Ed Spencer and Brandon Sutton take a look at what to expect from McLaren in 2024.

Joe Krishnan: Norris will win a race this year

I didn’t believe Zak Brown when he hailed Norris and Piastri as F1‘s most exciting driver pairing, but I’ve been convinced after their superb 2023 display.

It would do them a disservice to suggest their flurry of podiums only came as a result of the team’s upgrades, which obviously did give them a massive boost. Norris is a brave driver capable of executing daring moves, while Piastri is so calm and collected behind the wheel that he even beat Max Verstappen in a sprint race.

Surely it won’t be long before Norris finally gets his day on top of the podium, and I think 2024 will be the year he does it. I fully expect Piastri to give the Briton a run for his money, which will put McLaren in a solid position in terms of challenging Mercedes and Ferrari for a top three spot in the constructors’.

Oscar Piastri and Lando Norris after the Qatar GP | McLaren F1 team

That said, they cannot afford another awful start to the season in Bahrain after finishing outside the top 15 in the first two races. If the Papaya start off on the right foot this time, fourth may be too cautious a prediction for last season’s most improved team.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 4th

Jasmine Hughes: McLaren set for close Mercedes fight

McLaren start this season in a good place, and with solid foundations to build on. After surmounting its early-season failings last year, McLaren ended the 2023 season as one of the stronger teams on the grid, with nine podiums to their name.

Had the team enjoyed a better start to 2023, they quite possibly would have finished higher than fourth in the constructors’ standings.

This year, McLaren can skip the awkward teething phase and start chasing results. With a strong driver pairing in Piastri and Norris, McLaren should find themselves fighting towards the front of the grid, going head-to-head with Ferrari and Mercedes for best of the rest status.

With McLaren and Mercedes sharing a power unit, the battle between these two teams could be close. If McLaren can carry its strong momentum from last season into 2024, it could be looking at a competitive year – especially as Norris continues to chase down that elusive first win.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 3rd

Adam Dickinson: McLaren are a big wildcard

One of the biggest wildcards for 2024, because McLaren have been here before. After returning to relevance in 2019, McLaren followed that up with two really promising seasons before falling back down the order for 18 months from the start of 2022.

There’s not too much to indicate whether they’ll follow that path or not in 2024, but one big difference is the driver line-up. Norris is two years more experienced is arguably entering his prime right now with the right mix of youth and experience and Piastri was an instant upgrade on Daniel Ricciardo that’s now entering his second season.

He needs to continue that trajectory rather than plateau and get the better of Norris on more occasions but nothing he’s shown so far in his career suggests he can’t do that. This is a top three driver line-up and that will enable McLaren to have a close battle with Mercedes, but I think the Silver Arrows and Ferrari will both have improved enough to keep them off the constructors’ championship podium.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 4th

Brandon Sutton: McLaren will be edged out by Ferrari and Mercedes

Spearheaded by Norris and Piastri, McLaren have one of the best driver line-ups on the grid and can rely on a steady flow of points throughout the season. They can also rely on their ability to build a car as shown from the Austrian Grand Prix when they became the second, at worst third, best car for the remainder of 2023.

They have excellent performance through high-speed corners as evidenced at the Japanese and British GP but perhaps they have a bit too much downforce for their own good, but wouldn’t you prefer to have too much?

McLaren launch MCL38 | McLaren F1 Team

If McLaren managed to claw a couple more tenths from Red Bull they could even be in a position to challenge for wins if their star drivers qualify strongly enough to give Verstappen a headache. Norris is definitely good enough to win races despite that zero hanging over his head.

But how will they fare against Mercedes and Ferrari? My thought is that the two will have a slight edge as McLaren still need to solve their issues relating to drag and low speed corners, combined with better driver line-ups, to leave Brown’s squad finishing a narrow fourth.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 4th

Ed Spencer: Stella has been outstanding

Heading into last year’s Bahrain GP, McLaren looked doomed to have a miserable 2023 after a dreadful pre-season testing in Bahrain where they struggled for speed and reliability.

Despite a rocky start, McLaren, armed with an excellent upgrade package, rocketed up the constructors’ championship table, going from the back to fourth by season’s end.

The job done by Stella so far has been nothing short of outstanding, but the focus must now switch to maintaining the trajectory McLaren is on and potentially going one better by challenging Red Bull for wins.

Norris is now edging ever closer to his long-awaited maiden F1 win after showcasing his ability to fight with the best on several occasions in 2023 as well as his excellent one-lap pace.

Piastri goes into his second year looking like the genuine article and should be even quicker with an entire season of learning under his belt.

Constructors’ Championship prediction: 2nd

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